Sintel (Retold)

"The wind whistled through the mountains covered in snow, forlorn and moaning, as always. I trudged on, holding my jacket closer to my face against the icy gale. Looking around, I take in my surroundings. Then, from out of nowhere someone jumps off the ridge behind me." Sintel is a young woman who finds a baby dragon, names him Scales and raises him as her own. But when Scales is taken from her, Sintel must go on a journey to get him back.

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1. Sintel

The wind whistled through the mountains covered in snow, forlorn and moaning, as always. I trudged on, holding my jacket closer to my face against the icy gale. Looking around, I take in my surroundings.

Then, from out of nowhere someone jumps off the ridge behind me. I turn around just in time. It’s a man, large and muscled. He brings his bladed staff down on my head, and I parry to save myself. His violent swings bring me to my knees in the snow, then press me up against the ridge wall. He tries to strangle me by pressing his staff against my throat.

I push him to the ground and draw my knife. I land a stab in his shoulder. He yells in pain. Using his staff to fling me away, I land in the snow. The man advances with my knife, livid.

I impale him on his own blade. His surprised expression fades into that of a dead one. I roll his body off mine, and lie in the snow, heart pounding, breathing hard.

Taking up his staff, I labour on. The last thing I see before I collapse is the light of a house.

 

 

“This blade has a dark past. It has shed much innocent blood.”

I awake in a small hut lit by a fire’s glow. There was a man crouched beside the fire. He was old and wrinkled, dressed in the garb of a shaman.

“You are a fool for travelling alone so completely unprepared,” he told me as he poured a bowl of some sort of broth. “You’re lucky your blood’s still flowing.” He handed me the bowl.

“Thank you,” I murmured.

The shaman sat down of the other side of the fire. “So, what brings you to the land of the Gatekeepers?”

I stared at my face reflected in the bowl of fragrant liquid. “I’m … I’m searching for someone.”

“Someone very dear,” the old man noted. “A kindred spirit?”

“A dragon.”

“A dangerous quest for a lone hunter.”

“I’ve been alone for as long as I can remember,” I muttered. I thought back to my life before my travels.

 

 

My home city. The cawing of crows. Scrabbling around in the remains of fallen down houses. Searching for food to eat, so I didn’t starve.

Something landed of the roof behind me. I went to investigate. Jump, jump, handhold, leap. An easy ascent. I unsheathed my knife, preparing to defend myself, and gasped.

It was a little reptile creature, only a baby. It was cowering against the bricks of the chimney, scared out of its wits. It wouldn’t stop crying. Then I saw why. It was bleeding, the blood flowing down the roof tiles. It had a tear in its wing.

I put away my knife, not wanting to frighten it more. The poor thing. I held out my hand.

“Shh, shhh,” I cooed. It sniffed at me, and ceased its wails. I smiled.

I took the small creature back to my home to clean its wing of blood. The silly thing couldn’t realise I was trying to help it, and thought I was just trying to cause it more pain. It resumed its wailing.

“Sh, hey, shh we’re almost done, hey, sit still!” It just wouldn’t stop crying and wriggling. I stroked the creature’s head and held its wing like a hand. It looked up adoringly at me. I giggled.

That night, I made it a bed and put out a bowl of water. I settled it in bed, then crawled under my own blanket.

“Goodnight, Scales.”

I took care of Scales until his wing healed. He eventually ended up sleeping in my bed.

Scales was just a baby, and I had to train him while I could. We started in the marketplace.

“Get him, Scales! Come one, get him!” I shouted as we raced through the streets. Scales chasing the chicken and me chasing Scales. I lost sight of him. I skidded to a stop, knocking over a crate of red and green apples.

“Scales?” I called. I’d lost him.

Squawking, a chicken fell down at my feet. Stunned, I looked down, then up. Scales flapped down to rest on a spar of wood. He happily blew a little puff of flame. I stared wide eyed, then grinned.

Next we moved onto geese. Scales caught sight of them and away he went. I bolted up at set of steps to the rooftops. I was amazing, watching Scales fly. It gave me a sense of freedom, even though I was standing on the ground.

I laughed in amazement. “Yeah!” I yelled, and punched the air. “Yeah, go on! Wooo!”

Then disaster struck. A fully grown dragon swooped though the air, going straight for Scales. Scales flew straight to me. I held my arms out eagerly, ready to catch him. The dragon snatched him up and clutched him in one clawed hand. I was crushed.

It was like everything was in slow motion. I held my hand out, and Scales held out his little clawed paw. His little face agonised, and I’m sure my face was the same. The follow-through of the big dragon’s tail pushed me to the ground.

The big dragon roared. I ran to the edge of the roof, hoping to catch a glimpse of my dragonlet. “Scales!” I cried.

The dragon and Scales diminished into the distance. I glared at the spot where they disappeared. No one was going to take my Scales from me.

I loped past the barren outskirts of my city, and sweltered through blinding desert heat. I navigated bamboo forests, leaping over fallen plants. I made my way through mazes of stone patrolled by large wild cats. I earned deep scratches on my arms in there. I survived thunderstorms with torrential rain. I climbed the face of a rocky mountain, hiking through blizzards.

Then I came to the place where the man attacked me.

 

 

I came back to the present with a start. “I have failed,” I sobbed.

“Hmm,” mumbled the shaman. “You have only failed your seeing” He picked up the bladed staff. “Be the dragon lands, Sintel. You’re closer than you know.” He handed me the staff. I took it and peered at the symbol inscribed at the grip. It was of a large tree. The symbol of the dragons.

I travel until I reach the picture in real life. In reality, the tree was massive, with a hugely complex root system that reached over meters of rocks. The crown foliage was pale green and beautiful. The tree was situated in front of the mouth of a cave.

Under the pale light of the moon, I walk in. The cave is lined with sporadic clumps of glowing blue crystals. They provided a faint light to see by. I lightened my steps, and calmed my breathing, so the big dragon didn’t hear me.

And there it was, the big dragon. It was busy picking meat off a carcass. I peeked around the corner, and spied a nest. That must be where it’s keeping  Scales!

A protruding point of rock bought me closer to the nest. I walked along it. The rip and chomp of the big dragon drowned out the sound of my landing. Creep, creep, to the nest. I held out my hand to wake up Scales.

He woke, and cried out in surprise. I was surprised myself, I thought Scales would recognise me. His crying got the attention of the big dragon, who turned around and breathed a massive plume of fire in my direction.

I saw Scales running away. My surprise tuned into rejection. I had no time to think about that, because the big dragon was after me! I ran across the cave, until the big dragon jumped to block me. I caught sight of Scales still running over the dragon’s shoulder. “Scales?” I pleaded. The big dragon breathed another spurt of fire in response. The hot air from that knocked me heavily to the ground.

The big dragon snapped at me, and I stabbed it in turn. It screeched in pain and shook me off, the fell down, breaking up chunks of crystal. I scrambled up and grabbed my staff. I scratched the big dragon, and it whipped me against a wall. Now it was my turn to break chunks of crystal.

I lay on the ground, winded. The dragon pounced on me. Strangely, instead of burning me to a crisp, it sniffed at me. I took advantage of its distraction and stabbed it in the chest. Blood spurted everywhere. It fell to ground, injured. I snarled, ready for the killing blow.

Then paused. The eyes. The way the dragon was looking at me. It was so familiar. I looked at its wing. A healed scar. Once a tear.

I dropped the blade, in shock. “Scales?” I murmured. It looked at me. “Scales,” I whispered. I looked at the puddle of blood that was pooling at my feet. I saw my reflection in the blood.

Grey hair. Wrinkles. Scars. I was an old woman. I saw in mind’s eye all the places I had travelled. I’d been travelling for so long I had never noticed age creeping up on me. I looked at the callouses on my hands and the scars from the rock maze on my arm. Scales was a grown dragon now.

From our battle, the cave was collapsing. I looked up. Cracks were forming in the roof. I had to go. I looked at Scales one last time. He closed his eyes, allowing death to take over.

I couldn’t stop looking at him, but in the end I turned and ran.

 

 

I sat on the edge of the cliff at the front of Scales’ cave, crying. I sighed. That’s the end of that. I got, slowly, and without glancing back, walked away. I discarded my belt, my knife and my shoulder guard. No more killing. I could hear my knife clang to the ground, but I didn’t turn. Then I heard something scrabbling behind me. I turned. It was the baby dragon.

A baby Scales.

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